Organizations that tap into the potential of Generative AI are poised to outpace competitors in 2023. Airtable customer SHI International is getting ahead by using ChatGPT to fast-track existing growth.
Generative AI could become as foundational to daily work as the internet in the coming years. Enterprises that successfully implement tools like ChatGPT will have a head start. They stand to gain efficiencies, save on headcount, increase revenue and automate mundane tasks freeing up their workforce to do more with less. Howard Shaw, director of technical strategy for SHI International says, “there are these events in the evolution of technology that happen where there's just a leap. When I first started using ChatGPT I got the feeling that this was one of those moments.”
“It wrote enough code in two minutes to save me 20 hours worth of work. It blew my mind,” Howard said. He utilizes ChatGPT to have it write custom code to automate manual tasks for SHI’s workflow. The team then integrates that code with Airtable to create apps to manage things like scheduling and resource planning. Howard says it’s accelerating SHI’s ability to build apps at scale.
Howard says that’s what is so powerful about this integration. It frees him up from the initial code writing, which is some of the most time consuming work he’s engaged in. SHI uses a lot of formulas and the scripting extension in Airtable to calculate things like how long a project will take. His Airtable app then takes into account how much bandwidth each person on staff has, what materials are available, the amount of effort each task within the project will take, when handoffs are likely to happen between teams to avoid bottlenecks, how much each project will cost, how much power it will use and so much more. He recently decided to ask ChatGPT to write some of these formulas and custom scripts for him.
“It's the difference between doing long division on paper and having a calculator. I know how to do long division but there’s no point in me writing it all out.”
SHI International is one of the largest technology solutions providers in the world. More than 17,000 organizations worldwide rely on SHI for scalable, cost-effective infrastructure, end-user computing and cybersecurity solutions. Howard is always looking for the latest tools on the market that will save SHI time and money. He implemented Airtable in 2018 to manage production, scheduling, resource allocation, supply chain management and change management solutions. “With each Airtable app that we release, there is a minimum of a 50% time savings on whatever workflow it’s helping us manage,” Howard said.
Before Airtable all information about project requirements and timelines was tracked in spreadsheets and emails. Making a change to a rack configuration or cable matrix in the data center was time consuming and manual. Each change was tracked in a static spreadsheet which meant multiple changes could be made by different teams and not reflected on the spreadsheet in real time. Even determining how long a project would take was nearly impossible to keep up with.
“Since implementing Airtable our division grew 54% in revenue and margins last year, and 25% in headcount. So we're growing the business twice as fast as we’re growing operations. ChatGPT is only going to accelerate that growth.”
As has been widely reported, one of the main concerns with ChatGPT is that it isn't always accurate. The bot answers questions by leveraging the enormous amount of data it was trained on from across the internet. To mitigate risk Howard says it’s critical that organizations have human oversight when using ChatGPT. SHI’s team of engineers know what to look for so they’re able to carefully go through each line and check the bot’s work. Correcting mistakes only takes a few minutes, a huge time savings for the organization versus having someone create each individual script themselves. He estimates the amount of custom code he’s been able to write with the help of Chat GPT in the past two weeks would have required him to hire two full time software engineers.
Howard points out that writing code is not a barrier to getting started. Users can ask ChatGPT to teach them some programming language. Howard says, “it explains the code and why it was chosen. So you don’t need to have any coding experience, just a willingness to learn.”
Ever since ChatGPT was made accessible to a mainstream audience, competitors have been scrambling to catch up. Silicon Valley investors will continue to fund a generative AI arms race. The organizations that start putting this new tech to work for them stand to gain the most in the years ahead. Or as Howard says “you're at a disadvantage if you’re not trying to use it.”